I had a lesson in loss while I was walking through town a week ago. I was lamenting a misunderstanding that made me feel bereft when I saw a young child, maybe about two years old, run from the Disney shop in one of the shopping arcades.
On its own this even would not be peculiar but the child ran with tiny rapid steps of desperation. Glancing around I saw that no adult was pursuing this mini tornado and others were avoiding the child as it ran past busy legs going in the other direction.
I was cautious about doing anything but I set my own worries aside and quickened my step as the child ran towards the bus station. Not knowing what to do for the best I followed and when the small person came back out of a shop doorway with a perplexed look on its face I approached.
“Hello,” I said as gently as I could while reaching for the child’s hand. “Are you OK? Are you looking for somebody? Mummy? Daddy?”
I was initially met with a blank stare and tight lips. However, in seconds the child’s eyes spoke volumes. Like a barrier at the Niagara Falls the tears were set to cascade down its face. Still, not a word passed the child’s lips.
I repeated the question and looked up to see what other adults had also see the runaway child. Thankfully, a kindly faced woman was nearby. She stepped closer.
I explained the situation to her.
I suggested that we retrace the child’s steps to the point where I first saw them running free.
“Do you want me to come with you?” the woman asked, even though she was weighed down with several shopping bags. “You don’t want people to think you’re kidnapping him.” It was a girl but I didn’t think it timely to point that out to the other Good Samaritan in the shopping centre right then.
Together we made our way back to the shop where I first saw the child escape like a speeding bullet.
No amount of gentle talking as we walked back would persuade the child to give any information about who they were with. I suggested that we take the youngster to the security guard.
Just as we were arriving at the entrance to the original shop where I first spied the child, a woman with an empty pushchair came out into the main walkway; the child released itself from my hold and ran towards her and jumped into the pushchair. The woman said a few words to the child and looked away. The child started pointing at the window displays in the Disney shop and was laughing. That was the only laughter shared between us all that day.
I started to explain to her what had happened. The mother (I think) then created something that could have been described as a smile, if you were desperate, and threw it in the direction of the other woman and I.
I didn’t expect flowers, hugs, or a reward but her whole attitude was perfectly summed up by the other Good Samaritan as we walked back in the direction that we had just come from. I guess she must have felt somewhat deflated because she turned to me and said, “She didn’t seem too concerned at all, did she? Or grateful.” I concurred. I was confused why those minutes of loss had not etched a greater sign of concern on the mother’s face.
I remember when I thought my child was lost – it was a completely different experience.
Later as I wandered around the supermarket picking up a few items for the evening I realised that loss is always personal.
The child ran like their life depended on finding the mother, their eyes were clouded with tears of desperation. The mother, on the other hand, had an air of nonchalance about her. She put the child in the pushchair and turned on her heels without even expressing a word of thanks.
What means a lot to one person may be handled in quite a different way by another. We all have our individual needs and individual reasons for dealing with loss in our own way.